Businesses Expansion of Attack Surfaces

One of the main reasons cyber risk continues to increase exponentially is due to the rapid expansion of attack surfaces – the places where software programs are vulnerable to attack or probe by an adversary. Attack surfaces, according to the SANS Institute, can include any part of a company’s infrastructure that exposes its networks and systems to the outside, from servers and open ports to SQLs, email authentication and even employees with “access to sensitive information.” It can also include user input via keyboard or mouse, network traffic and external hardware that is not protected by cyberhardening technology.

It would be easy to blame the Internet of Things (IoT) for the expanding attack surfaces, as Intel projects two billion smart devices worldwide by 2020. But in reality, the IoT is only part of the attack surface epidemic.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there are now 111 billion new lines of code written each year, introducing vulnerabilities both known and unknown. Not to be overlooked as a flourishing attack vector are humans, which some argue are both the most important, but also the weakest link in the cyberattack kill chain. In fact, in many cybersecurity circles there is a passionate and ongoing debate regarding just how much burden businesses should put on employees to prevent and detect cyber threats. What is not up for debate, however, is just how vulnerable humans are to intentionally or unintentionally opening the digital door for threat actors to walk in. This is most evident by the fact that 9 out of 10 cyberattacks begin with some form of email phishing targeting workers with mixed levels of cybersecurity training and awareness.

Critical Infrastructure Protection Remains a Challenge

Critical infrastructure, often powered by SCADA systems and equipment now identified as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is also a major contributor to attack surface expansion. Major attacks targeting these organizations occur more from memory corruption errors and buffer overflows exploits than from spear-phishing or email spoofing and tend to be the motive of nation states and cyber terrorists more so than generic hackers.

“Industrial devices are designed to have a long-life span, but that means most legacy equipment still in use was not originally built to achieve automation and connectivity.” The IIoT does provide many efficiencies and cost-savings benefits to companies in which operational integrity, confidentiality and availability are of the utmost importance, but the introduction of technology into heavy machinery and equipment that wasn’t built to communicate outside of a facility has proven challenging. The concept of IT/OT integration, which is meant to merge the physical and digital security of corporations and facilities, has failed to reduce vulnerabilities in a way that significantly reduces risk. As a result, attacks seeking to exploit critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, such as WannaCry, have become the rule and not the exception.

To date cyber criminals are winning? 

To date, critical infrastructure cybersecurity has relied too much upon network monitoring and anomaly detection in an attempt to detect suspicious traffic before it turns problematic. The challenge with this approach is that it is reactionary and only effective after an adversary has breached some level of defenses.

We take an entirely different approach, focusing on prevention by denying malware the uniformity it needs to propagate. To do this, we use a binary randomization technique that shuffles the basic constructs of a program, known as basic blocks, to produce code that is functionally identical, but logically unique. When an attacker develops an exploit for a known vulnerability in a program, it is helpful to know where all the code is located so that they can repurpose it to do their bidding. Binary randomization renders that prior knowledge useless, as each instance of a program has code in different locations.

One way to visualize the concept of binary randomization is to picture the Star Wars universe at the time when Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance set off to destroy the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance had the blueprints to the Death Star and used those blueprints to find its only weakness. Luke set off in his X-Wing and delivered a proton torpedo directly to the weak spot in the Death Star, destroying it. In this scenario, the Death Star is a vulnerable computer program, and Luke is an adversary trying to exploit said computer program.

Now imagine that the Galactic Empire built 100 Death Stars, each protected by RunSafe’s new Death Star Weakness Randomization. This protection moves the weakness to a different place on each Death Star. Now imagine you are Luke, flying full speed toward the weakness in the Death Star, chased by TIE fighters, only to find that the weakness is not where the blueprint showed. The Rebel attack fails, and the Galactic Empire celebrates by destroying another planet. Similar to the Death Star scenario above, code protected with binary randomization will still contain vulnerabilities, but an attacker’s ability to successfully exploit that vulnerability on multiple targets becomes much more difficult.

 

Cyber Criminals Loves the Cloud (Hackers Cloud Life)

Are hackers smarter and more creative than cyber guardians? This is becoming the eternal question of the digital age. While we would like to think the protection of customer passwords and personal credentials is the job of IT experts, reports of recent data breaches now suggest we are losing the battle against online criminals. The situation at hand can be likened to a carjacker who enters a parking lot and simply strolls to the stall where all the keys are kept. The parking guard is mysteriously missing, and the keys are ripe for the taking, even to the big, expensive vehicles. This is essentially the situation hackers are now enjoying on the Cloud—a relatively unguarded and highly accessible environment.

Organizational growth and development have led to increased use of the Cloud, which has exacerbated the problem of compromised user data. Companies have essentially transferred VPN and cloud access credentials to available cloud storage. Hackers are sending bots to scour GitHub, the source code administration framework, searching for advanced access keys to Amazon Web Services and other cloud frameworks. In 2015, one indiscreet developer woke to discover his stolen keys were being utilized to run 140 AWS servers mining bitcoin. Indeed, even U.S. Intelligence facts, including security keys to access “distributed intelligence systems,” were also left exposed to the public suggest Bay Area security firm, UpGuard.

Further, even if credentials aren’t left in a discoverable location, hackers can break into a network and find unprotected or unencrypted keys lying around to gain access. In spite of the dangers, developers are still consistently putting away the digital assets and resources and even client data in the source code, setup documents, and different random, unencrypted areas. Not like run of the mill user who can remember their passwords or store them with a protected secret word, engineers and IT professionals regularly need to keep security credentials where automated programs can find them. What’s more, the sensitive information of ordinary clients is also being inadvertently left unattended on some organization networks, where hackers don’t have to work very hard for access.

SECURING THE CLOUD

Cloud managers are struggling to stop the leak of critical data. Sophisticated new cybersecurity tools designed to safely store these important credentials in a legitimate, automated way are looking to revamp accessibility by scanning uploaded files to the cloud storage to ensure passwords and keys aren’t exposed. According to industry experts, this effort is doing much to turn the tide of cybercrime.

Cloud managers are also trying to close the entryway leading to the exposure of more basic data. Refined new cybersecurity tools want to safely store these sorts of credentials in a genuine way that grants access to automated procedures but not hackers.

Armon Dadgar, founder and co-CTO of San Francisco-based software company HashiCorp explains, “Everyone knew this was a bad thing to do. It wasn’t like anyone had an illusion that keeping these credentials in plain text was smart or sane, but no one had a better answer.”

Amazon launched AWS Secrets Manager last month, its own credential management tool. This was followed by Microsoft’s Azure Key Vault which securely stores, monitors, and controls access to this kind of data. But even as these tools become available, companies with avid developers, all of whom have a wide array of remote tools using credentials, are being continually challenged by security issues. Christoffer Fjellström, a developer at Swedish security firm Detectify says, “The main problem is that companies really don’t have policies for it or they don’t follow up and make sure those policies are followed.”

Recent hacks have made it clear that few organizations can hope to keep their networks entirely free from intrusion. Dadgar goes on to explain, “Many companies paid less attention to the security of data within their firewalls. In that world, things like secret management were just less important. Does it matter that you have my database credential if you’re not on my network?”

Other new tools help detect if secure data is being sent and stored where it doesn’t belong. UpGuard, known for its frequent role in detecting leaks tied to data stored on insecure cloud machines, has released BreachSight which scours the internet for its clients’ exposed code, credentials, personally identifiable information, and other sensitive data.

“You might have this world-class team, but the project manager has an online Kanban board sitting out in the open that he’s using for notes, and it’s full of API keys. But nobody thought to look for it because the company believes everything’s internal,” co-founder and co-CEO Mike Baukes says. “It’s examples like that, which are things happening in the real world, that nobody’s had an answer for until now.”

Amazon has also offered a service called Amazon Macie, which uses machine learning to detect unusual access patterns in cloud storage and uploads of potentially sensitive data like access keys. Amazon also released open source software to prevent the accidental storing of passwords and keys to source code repositories, while other developers have offered similar tools to scrub credentials from existing code. According to Fast Company, those types of tools will be automatically provided as part of cloud computing contracts, just like standard seatbelts in a new car.

A Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful SIEM Deployment

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) deployment based on firsthand experience implementing SIEM for a broad range of customers.

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Discovery Phase - Laying the Groundwork

  1. Review the organizational security posture and the initial business case for SIEM. Then prioritize the goals of the SIEM implementation from the most critical to the optional—taking into account the tasks that must be performed in order to support the effort.
  2. Review in detail the organizational security policy to consider the intent behind the policy. Separate those policies from a priority standpoint. Determine what’s critical, what’s necessary for mandatory compliance and what policies are best practices to ensure a secure environment.
  3. Identify current controls that are auditing those policies to determine compliance level. Ideally, a SIEM implementation should not be the first time the organization identifies that its security policy or how it’s implemented isn’t working according to plan. The reality is that these deployments often expose gaps in security execution that must be remediated before those elements can be integrated into a daily alerting and reporting structure.  
  4. Identify a smaller representative subset of the current policy and devices where SIEM can be applied and enough data can be gathered to determine what changes need to occur.
     

Pilot Phase - Beginning the Implementation

The primary goal of this phase is to determine which specific SIEM project goals can be implemented in order to establish initial ROI while creating a baseline operational model and run-book.

  1. The lessons learned from the discovery phase are used to implement a larger subset of technology.
  2. The assumptions developed during the discovery phase are tested in real time.
  3. The list of devices should be expanded to incorporate a wider set of technologies and numbers.
  4. The information developed from this phase is used to determine the final steps of controlled deployment and maturity phase.


Controlled Deployment Phase - Building Capacity

The primary goal of this phase is to develop a deployment workflow that enables the organization to build capacity as full deployment approaches. This phase also serves as the initial production test run and the completion of operational run-books necessary to manage a full deployment.

Maturity Phase - Continuing to Evolve

Significant work must be performed in order to mature the organization’s security posture and implement the finer points of the deployment. This phase never has an end point—since SIEM must continually evolve.

Cyber-Digital Task Force

The Department of Justice’s internal “Cyber-Digital Task Force,” created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February, will release its first-ever public report later this month at the Aspen Institute’s annual Security Forum, a department spokesperson told CyberScoop.

The report is expected to detail a series of security recommendations that the government should consider to protect future U.S. elections from a myriad of different threats, including foreign hacking attempts.

A statement by the DOJ previously explained that the Task Force will “prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.”

When Sessions launched the group earlier this year, he requested that an initial report be completed by June 30. The recommendations were submitted ahead of time, according to DOJ spokesperson Ian Prior. The answers are currently being reviewed ahead of publication.

The DOJ’s disclosure was made hours after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) issued a press release criticizing the department and Trump administration for missing various cybersecurity policy deadlines, including the June 30 submission. The agency contends that it in fact made the deadline, although the publication won’t occur for a few weeks. The Aspen Security Forum begins on July 18.

The creation of the Cybersecurity Task Force on Feb. 20 came less than a week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a group of Russian internet trolls for interfering in U.S. politics. The Russians allegedly ran an extensive social media campaign that worked to trick American voters in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the indictment claims.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to make “an exclusive policy announcement” on July 19 at the Aspen Institute event.

Will WPA3 Helps With The Fight Against Cyber Crimes

WPA3 Technology - Wirelsess Security 

A big update with the wireless LAN technology is on the horizon. Fourteen long years in the making, WPA 3 promises to correct the vulnerabilities of its predecessor, WPA2. WPA3 has been finally been ratified which will officially end the problems the industry has been tolerating regarding WPA2. Some well-known exploits against WPA2 were 2017 Key Reinstallation Attack, the Predictable Group Temporal Key vulnerability of 2016 and the Hole196 in the Group Temporal Key. The wi-fi hardware manufacturers are to blame, given that they refuse to support their own consumer-grade routers and wi-fi hotspots. They prefer for their customers to buy new hardware, instead of releasing a firmware update to plug the security exploits with their current products.

WPA3 simplifies the complex four-way handshake protocol used by WPA2 in generating encryption keys. As highlighted by Joe Hoffman, director of SAR Insights & Consulting: “Wi-Fi security technologies may live for decades, so it’s important they are continually updated to ensure they meet the needs of the Wi-Fi industry. Wi-Fi is evolving to maintain its high-level of security as industry demands increase.” WPA3 in a corporate setting will take advantage of 192-bit encryption, which is missing in any corporate version of the current WPA2 standard.

The healthcare industry is looking forward to the standardization of WPA3, for its increase level of encryption necessary with complying better with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act). Phil Raymond, wireless director of Philips said: “Hospitals are keenly aware of the critical importance of data privacy and security and maintaining a robust security policy means accessing the strongest security measures available. Philips applauds Wi-Fi Alliance for building upon the success of WPA2 with the latest security mechanisms now available in WPA3.”

Hospitals require strict security when it comes to communication, as they have the legal responsibility to keep patient record private. Edgar Figueroa, Wi-Fi Alliance President emphasized: “WPA3 takes the lead in providing the industry’s strongest protections in the ever-changing security landscape. WPA3 continues the evolution of Wi-Fi security and maintains the brand promise of Wi-Fi Protected Access.”

The less known feature of WPA3 that the healthcare industry is also looking forward to is Easy Connect. It is using the QR-code technique to detect and establish network connections, useful with IOTs and other modern networking devices. As this is not included by default, only certain models of wi-fi router will have this enabled as part of the package. Phil Solis, Research Director of IDC concluded: “The evolution of Wi-Fi to stay ahead of market needs has been critical to it remaining one of wireless technology’s greatest success stories. Wi-Fi Alliance has been instrumental in Wi-Fi’s evolution, and diligent about delivering Wi-Fi CERTIFIED programs so users and a variety of markets can rely on the convenience of Wi-Fi connectivity and security to meet their needs.”

IOT’s penetration in the healthcare industry is not yet very visible. However, compatibility with WPA3 is there if ever a hospital or any healthcare institution choose to use those devices in their network.

Data Protection Officer- Consultants

Why do I need a Data Protection Officer?

While the desire to protect company, customer, and vendor information isn’t new, there are new laws that are requiring organizations to take a more active role in protecting their data.  The EU recently passed the General Data Protection Regulation that requires certain businesses to have a Data Protection Officer.  In order to comply with the rule, it has been estimated that nearly 28,000 DPOs will be needed by the end of 2018.

Specifically, the General Data Protection Regulation requires companies that process data with a public authority or that regularly monitor data subjects on a large scale to have a DPO and a plan in place to protect that data.  It’s important to note that the rule not only effects companies that are biased in the EU, but also those that conduct business with its partner countries.

Because of the non-specific wording of the GDPR, one of the first steps that any company operating within the EU will need to take is to determine whether or not they are subject to the regulations in the law.  It may be necessary to hire a security consultant on a short-term basis to determine this.  Fortunately,  CyberSecOp has plenty of experience in helping companies comply with EU law and IT security background that this position would require.

What is a Data Protection Officer?

In order to comply with the new regulation, a Data Protection Officer must have, “expert knowledge of data protection law and practices”.  Additionally, the DPO must have a good understanding of the organizations' technical structure, organization, IT infrastructure, and technology.

It’s important to note that as long as an employee is capable of performing the basic functions of the role, there is no formal training requirement.  This means that the job can be assigned to an existing employee.  It is also permissible for an organization to hire an outside consultant or security firm to take on this role.

How will this affect my company?

Due to the massive penalties involved with ignoring the new GDPR, any company that meets the criteria and operates in at least some capacity in the EU will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer.  For larger companies, this role is most likely already filled by a data security team.  Small companies will most likely find it to be the most cost-effective to hire an outside company to handle its data security issues.

Mid-size companies, however, will likely struggle to come into compliance with this rule.  Keeping a full-time Data Protection Officer on staff might prove to be cost prohibitive, but it’s also possible that contracting with an outside firm may also run up costs beyond a sustainable level.  In many cases, the solution might be to find a professional with multiple skill sets who could act as the company’s Data Protection Officer while also performing other duties. CyberSecop have a team of security professionals dedicated to helping an organization in comping with GDPR and other data security frameworks.

Secure all networks, from the Internet?

In the coming years in 2019-2020, the active mobile users will cross the 5 billion mark globally, and add to this the number of tablet user will also increase. When we analyze these figures it is not difficult to estimate that there are more than 20 million IoT devices in the pipeline ready to hit the base by 2020. It means the above-given figures are all set to be part of the connected world.

All these devices mean lots of valuable data, and where there’s valuable data there are hackers trying to get access to it. Not only do we need to wrestle with new kinds of networks, many of them wireless, but we need to tackle the security of these networks while simultaneously tackling the massive scale of the problem.

Now imagine the kind of valuable data that will be churned out from these devices, and how it will be a gala time for the hackers to break into these devices and get access. No doubt we need to bring such device in our daily life, but the challenge is to get them all secured taking into account the massive breach in the line.

We asked vendors and resellers how they approach security of the WAN in this challenging environment

The internet is the network

The data center is no more the enter of the universe, but it is the Internet that new network that brings all the network closer to each other.

Mobile phone networks are rapidly being repurposed as a general-purpose data network over which voice calls are just one more application. Inside the telcos themselves, the core networking is already running over IP networks, and consumers are very comfortable with messaging applications that talk over IP networks instead of SMS. Devices in the field are adding LTE interfaces as a cheap and easy way to add networking capability to what were once disconnected devices.

“We have to rethink how we approach things,” Kopelke says. “We need to change our thinking from ‘How do I secure and protect the network?’ to ‘How do I secure and protect the data and applications?’”

Gavin Wilson, Asia-Pacific managing director at Cradlepoint “People expect to always be connected. Increasingly the connection is a mix of technologies, rather than a single layer-1 or layer-2 approach.” Instead of a loose collection of isolated technologies, the network is now an abstraction operating at a higher level, and there is no longer a functional difference between “the internet” of decades past and what all these modern mobile devices use to connect”.

The connected world and benefits

This ubiquitous networking is enabling associations to do things that basically weren’t conceivable previously. Without a system to send the information, gadgets in trucks or conveyed by field laborers would need to store information for later use. Presently they can stream a lot of information back to a server farm or straight into the cloud, and they can be inconsistent contact with different parts of the framework.

“The ability to get information out to remote people is a massive benefit, and, if a truck roll over on a delivery, an immediate duress notification can let others know the driver is in trouble,” says Michael Dyson, general manager at Advanced Mobile IT‌

“We also have digital signage that can be remotely updated,” Dyson says. “You can receive diagnostics from remote locations without having to send a technician out to the site and there are buses in New Zealand that can do on-board ticketing and have a GPS for accurate next-stop announcements.”

As it turned out to be consistently more steadily and reasonable, the requirement for the specialist like; satellite telephones, CB radios have dropped abruptly. These more seasoned technologies are turning into a fallback — as opposed to the essential strategy for building up correspondences. The generously higher transfer speed access, combined with the across the board accessibility of the supporting framework, influences the cost/to profit examination straightforward: you’d be distraught not to.

Security

Obviously, simply being associated isn’t sufficient. We likewise need to keep information and applications secure when they’re interfacing with an indistinguishable web from each content kiddie and solidified digital crime with a hunger for other individuals’ data.

“The traditional way to secure the WAN was using firewalls at each branch or backhauling branch traffic to a datacenter and use firewalls there to protect the traffic,” says Stree Naidu, vice president. Asia-Pacific and Japan for Cato Networks. “As long as we think about the firewall as a box that sits somewhere, that box defines the perimeter. But what if the perimeter was defined by a firewall that is everywhere? This is the notion of Firewall as a Service (FWaaS).”

Moving from the physical system of security that is as pervasive as the availability itself is it all about. “Systems that are secured from commencement is the name of the diversion. Rather than being a bit of hindsight or an extra, security in a world with no border implies heating it in from the start.

“It has to be about more than taking an appliance and virutalizing it,” says Zscaler’s Kopelke. “We say that’s just cloud-washing.”

Cato Networks’ Scree agrees. “The challenge most organizations face is how to extend enterprise-grade security to all their branches and mobile users globally,” he says. “Cloud networks with built-in network security can offer a way forward.”

“With users expecting a higher standard of service, these standalone appliances won’t cut it anymore,” says Dell EMC’s Elmarji. “You need to be able to provide full security on all connected devices, fast access to data, and 24/7 connectivity.”

While it’s still relatively early days for software-defined networks, it’s clear where the momentum is. Customers and resellers alike should be investigating how they can move to using software-based networking to create the secure, ubiquitous networks of the future

New Data Privacy Law in India

Like EU India is putting tight restrictions on data privacy.

India is quick tilting into the computerized age, however, its laws and directions are dated and unsuited to the circumstances, consequently raising worries about protection.

In an offer to modernize them, the former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna is heading a panel to draft new data privacy laws to manage and regulate the conduct of tech giants, and the move has put the likes of Google and Facebook in a jitter.

The committee was constituted after a landmark Supreme Court judgment headed by Srikrishna after the Supreme Court, in August 2017, declared the right to privacy to be a fundamental right. The apex court further recognized the complexities in data protection and instructed the government to formulate and enact a comprehensive data protection law. After almost a year, the committee is slated to submit its draft this week.

Current data-privacy laws in India are narrow in scope

As of now, the primary statutes administering data protection in India are the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011. This is just not enough as it is just a thin line that separates the two that regulates the processing of sensitive personal data or information like password and financial information. Non-sensitive personal data have no such control.

The Srikrishna committee seeks to curb unhindered data collection practices and to curb such practices.

It seeks to detail several specifics, including defining what fair use is, deciding whether tech giants can transfer data across international borders, and designing an effective enforcement mechanism.

BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING AN INFORMATION SECURITY

THE BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING AN INFORMATION SECURITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (ISMS)

 

SECURES YOUR INFORMATION IN ALL ITS FORMS

An ISMS helps protect all forms of information, including digital, paper-based, intellectual property, company secrets, data on devices and in the Cloud, hard copies and personal information.

INCREASES RESILIENCE TO CYBER ATTACKS

Implementing and maintaining an ISMS will significantly increase your organisation’s resilience to cyber attacks.

PROVIDES A CENTRALLY MANAGED FRAMEWORK

An ISMS provides a framework for keeping your organisation’s information safe and managing it all in one place.

OFFERS ORGANISATION-WIDE PROTECTION

It protects your entire organisation from technology-based risks and other, more common threats, such as poorly informed staff or ineffective procedures.

HELPS RESPOND TO EVOLVING SECURITY THREATS

Constantly adapting to changes both in the environment and inside the organisation, an ISMS reduces the threat of continually evolving risks.

REDUCES COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH INFORMATION SECURITY

Thanks to the risk assessment and analysis approach of an ISMS, organisations can reduce costs spent on indiscriminately adding layers of defensive technology that might not work.

PROTECTS CONFIDENTIALITY, AVAILABILITY AND INTEGRITY OF DATA

An ISMS offers a set of policies, procedures, technical and physical controls to protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of information.

IMPROVES COMPANY CULTURE

The Standard’s holistic approach covers the whole organisation, not just IT, and encompasses people, processes and technology. This enables employees to readily understand risks and embrace security controls as part of their everyday working practices.

 

PGP vulnerability? Exposes PGP Encrypted Email

German researchers have found a major vulnerability in PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a popular email encryption program, which could reveal past and present encrypted emails.

Sebastian Schinzel, professor of computer science at Münster University investigated the flaw, tweeting that full details of the vulnerability will be available from 15 May. 

He said: "they might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past."

PGP Ecryption.png

We'll publish critical vulnerabilities in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption on 2018-05-15 07:00 UTC. They might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the 

Anyone using PGP to encrypt their email could have their messages exposed thanks to a severe vulnerability for which there's no proper fix. That's according to researchers in Germany, who said anyone using plug-ins allowing simple use of PGP should stop using them entirely and possibly delete them too.

The warning came from Sebastian Schinzel, lead of the IT security lab at the Münster University of Applied Sciences, who noted attacks exploiting the vulnerability "might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past." Though he isn't revealing the full details until Tuesday May 15, the findings have spooked security-conscious folk.

We'll publish critical vulnerabilities in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption on 2018-05-15 07:00 UTC. They might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past. #efail 1/4

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it had reviewed the research and could "confirm that these vulnerabilities pose an immediate risk to those using these tools for email communication, including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages."

"Until the flaws described in the paper are more widely understood and fixed, users should arrange for the use of alternative end-to-end secure channels, such as Signal, and temporarily stop sending and especially reading PGP-encrypted email," the EFF wrote in a blog post.

The EFF has also offered guidance on how to remove plug-ins associated with PGP email, which users can find on the blog. Those plug-ins include ones for clients Apple Mail, Thunderbird and Outlook.

It appears the vulnerability (which some have dubbed eFail) resides in such email clients, rather than a fundamental problem with the PGP standard, according to Werner Koch, the man behind GNUPrivacyGuard (GnuPG), the free and open source PGP software suite. In a post, Koch said he believed the EFF's comments on the issue were "overblown" and that he hadn't been contacted about the vulnerability.

This vulnerability might be used to decrypt the contents of encrypted emails sent in the past. Having used PGP since 1993, this sounds baaad. #efail

They figured out mail clients which don't properly check for decryption errors and also follow links in HTML mails. So the vulnerability is in the mail clients and not in the protocols. In fact OpenPGP is immune if used correctly while S/MIME has no deployed mitigation.

PGP was long seen as the standard for encrypted messaging and it remains the most popular method of sending private email. Increasingly, however, mobile apps like Signal, Apple's iMessage and Threema have provided simple methods for end-to-end encrypted communications.

Schinzel hadn't responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. He's done significant work on cryptographic weaknesses in the past; in 2016, he co-created an attack dubbed DROWN (Decrypting RSA with Obsolete and Weakened eNcryption), which could decrypt people's web connections on 33 per cent of all HTTPS websites.

A trick to decrypt

The researchers explained in a website for the eFail vulnerability that it required the attacker to be able to intercept and email and tamper with it to reveal the plaintext of messages. "In a nutshell, eFail abuses active content of HTML emails, for example externally loaded images or styles, to exfiltrate plaintext through requested URLs," they wrote.

"The attacker changes an encrypted email in a particular way and sends this changed encrypted email to the victim. The victim's email client decrypts the email and loads any external content, thus exfiltrating the plaintext to the attacker."

The full technical paper is available here.

An old flaw

A spokesperson for ProtonMail, a webmail service that uses PGP, confirmed its services were not affected. The spokesperson also eFail wasn't exactly new. "It has been known since 2001. The vulnerability exists in implementation errors in various PGP clients and not the protocol itself," the spokesperson added.

"What is newsworthy is that some clients that support PGP were not aware of this for 17 years and did not perform the appropriate mitigation.

"As the world's largest encrypted email service based on PGP, we are disappointed that some organizations and publications have contributed to a narrative that suggests PGP is broken or that people should stop using PGP. This is not a safe recommendation."

Apple gets fixing

An Apple spokesperson said partial fixes to eFail were released in iOS 11.3, which shipped March 29. The remaining fixes for affected Apple products being developed and will be with customers soon, they added.

Microsoft said it had no comment on the matter.

Corporate Information Security Steering Committee

Organizations are becoming increasingly aware that if they fail to implement successful security management processes, it could expose them to untenable risk.

The role of the corporate information security steering committee has become an important tool in the quest for a coordinated corporate security strategy, for reducing duplication in security spending, for taking control of complex infrastructures and ultimately, for reducing security risk. 

One of the first steps for many organizations has been to set up a common security team and to embark on enterprise-wide information security programs. However, many of these teams have struggled to align corporate business objectives with strategic security investment.

META Group's research indicates that the majority of new security teams struggle to define and establish their corporate missions, scope, influence and power bases. Furthermore, these security teams have poorly defined executive charters and operate without effective communications plans. The unfortunate result of such poor grounding is the temptation for newly established teams to immerse themselves in technology quests, searching for elusive enterprise-wide technical solutions.

In contrast, the most effective security organizations are those with clear responsibilities and well-defined processes, based upon five primary organizational roles:

  • Leadership - this is the role of the chief information security officer who deals with both the day to day management of the security team as well as continuous communication of the importance and value of security measures
  • Analysis/design - these security analysts help information owners develop meaningful security policy as well as effective security solutions
  • Security administration - these people look after the day to day administration of access rights, passwords, etc
  • Security operations - resources that continuously monitor the security status of the organization, and manage incident response procedures.
  • Awareness communication - resources that design and manage ongoing security awareness and training programs. 
    Executive custody and governance -represented by an information security committee

The role of the corporate security steering committee is to coordinate corporate security initiatives at the executive level and thus enable an organization to optimize spending, manage their infrastructure and minimize security risk. Obtaining consensus and support for corporate-wide security initiatives is especially difficult in highly decentralized and multinational organizations with a high level of devolved authority and autonomy. In this type of organization, an executive governance body becomes essential.

Corporate information security steering committees (CISSC) must have a clear charter with a range of functions that should include:

  • Managing the development and executive acceptance of an enterprise security charter.
  • Assessing and accepting corporate-wide security policy (e.g., the corporate policy on security incident response, general behavioral policy). A major objective of this function is ensuring that business requirements are reflected in the security policy, thus ensuring that the policy enables rather than restricts business operations.
  • Assessing any requests for policy exceptions from individual business units.
  • Assessing, accepting, and sponsoring corporate-wide security investment (e.g., identity infrastructure deployment, remote access infrastructure), as well as requests to be excluded from common investment.
  • Providing a forum for discussion and arbitration of any disputes or disagreements regarding common policy or investment issues.
  • Acting as custodian and governance body of the enterprise security program by ensuring visible executive support, as well as monitoring progress and achievements. The role of a permanent governance structure reinforces the message that enterprise security becomes an ongoing, long-term initiative.
  • Assessing and approving the outsourcing of common security services, as well as coordinating investment in appropriate relationship management resources. As the lack of skilled resources increases the need to outsource operational services, executive due diligence, risk assessment, and ongoing effectiveness assessment must be coordinated through the steering committee.
  • Initiating ad hoc projects to investigate the advantages, disadvantages, risks, and cost of common security initiatives, and advising the committee with appropriate recommendations.
  • Representing the executive (board of directors) or its nominated information governance body (e.g., an information executive board) in all corporate security matters. Reporting back to these forums on the activities and effectiveness of corporate security programs and investments.
  • Acting as custodian of corporate-wide strategic security processes (e.g., role analysis, data classification) by validating process ownership, responsibilities, and stakeholders.
  • Acting as respondent to enterprise-level audit exceptions (i.e., those audit exceptions where a specific individual cannot be found to be responsible).
  • Coordinating and validating any external, security-related corporate communications plans and activities (e.g., in the event of a high-profile, publicized security breach).
  • Tracking major line-of-business IT initiatives to identify opportunities for synergy or to leverage security investment.
  • Governing trust relationships with major e-business partners.

It is very important that steering committee members can make decisions at meetings. This requires the active participation of senior executive business managers or it must be a permanent subcommittee of an executive information board. To prevent the committee becoming an ineffective 'debating society' or forum for driving political agendas, the scope, powers and objectives of the committee should be clearly documented and measured.

Typical members of an information security steering committee include: line of business managers, application owners, regional managers, IT managers, the IT director, the chief security officer, the corporate risk manager and the chief internal auditor. A clear distinction must be made between the role of the CISSC (i.e., executive custody and governance) and the leadership role (i.e., day-to-day management of the security team) of the chief information security officer.

By developing the emerging role of the chief security officer (CSO) and the security team, enterprises can foster a holistic approach to information security - one that recognizes that policy, process, and communication are as important as technology.

Cloud to Streamline Security for Strategic Growth

As the technology director at Inspira Health Network, François Bodhuin and his staff have their work cut out for them, as they strive to support the organization’s strategic growth, stay on top of technology needs and keep patient data secure.

The New Jersey-based organization, in fact, is constantly looking to expand. “We are a medium-sized system, but we are very active in our expansion plans,” Bodhuin said, noting that the system now has more than 150 service locations in five counties. The health network is currently building a new hospital, adding a two- story patient tower to one of its existing hospitals, expanding its behavioral health program, renovating a satellite ER, recently opened a senior emergency department and purchased a regional medical transport company.

In addition, the Inspira technology department has developed an app to better serve all the patients that will flow into this continually growing health system. The app enables patients to request appointments, get directions to facilities, access a list of providers, view emergency department and urgent care wait times, pay bills and even participate in virtual visits.

So, it made perfect sense for Inspira to move its compliance management software to the cloud when FairWarning introduced a cloud-based managed shared services solution that works to ensure all data is secure by continually monitoring user activity and sending out alerts for any suspicious actions. After all, the health system had already moved a variety of systems to the cloud including its electronic health records, security information and event management (SIEM) and wound care solutions, and has experienced myriad benefits by doing so.

“The cloud saves costs; because you are getting a virtual server, the hardware itself costs less,” he said. In addition, when a managed services provider hosts a solution in the cloud, the healthcare organization does not incur on-boarding or ongoing training costs.

By hosting the compliance solution in the cloud under a managed services arrangement, Inspira will be positioned to:

Take advantage of a team of privacy and security experts. “The team concept to me is a key with managed services. We’re always being asked to work more efficiently. In this case, we will be able to really do that because we will have a team of experts that is performing the function,” Bodhuin said. “Because they’re experts, they know when a complaint is significant. They know when an alert is significant. They know when to ask for an investigation.” In addition, because these experts are well versed in the compliance solution, the learning curve that is typically associated with implementing a new solution is eliminated.

Reduce the need to search for IT staff. Hiring experienced, qualified IT staff is a challenge for all healthcare organizations. “In South Jersey, it is especially difficult to attract people to work in security and privacy. [With managed services], we don’t have to search for IT staff and we won’t have any onboarding costs. All that is built-in to our fees,” he said.

Maintain flexibility. With a managed solution in the cloud, it will be easy for Inspira to grow – as the organization does not need to add staff but can instead simply adjust the services agreement to meet evolving needs.

More readily deal with infrastructure challenges. With managed services, Inspira staff do not need to “worry about patching or managing the server,” he said. In addition, staff don’t need to be concerned with “upgrading the hardware, or the software . . . or worry about disaster recovery,” something that traditionally generates significant downtime, according to Bodhuin.

Leverage the experiences of many. Managed services providers work with a variety of organizations making it possible to “bring many best practices to the table,” which is difficult to do when hosting and maintaining systems internally, Bodhuin noted.

Save considerable time. “There's a lot of daily work that, all of a sudden, you don't have to do because it’s being done by the managed service. In privacy and security, we expect to regain about one to two hours a day for each analyst,” he said. “Now, they can focus their time on responding to issues that are reported to them. All that saved time can be allocated to another function.”

Doing managed services right

While Bodhuin expects to realize these benefits when moving the compliance software to the cloud, his past experience with managed services has provided a litany of lessons learned. More specifically, he knows that to successfully work with a managed services provider requires:

  • Defining expectations explicitly. “You have to define what you trust them to do. You could let the managed service provider run the whole show if you wanted to, in certain functions,” or limit their scope to a defined set of functions, according to Bodhuin.
  • Proactively managing the working relationship. “You really have to keep them on their toes. Make sure they deliver what they say they will deliver,” he advised. “So you really have to pay attention to your statement of work to ensure that you will get what you expect.”
  • Treating the managed service provider as one of our own. “It’s really important that you make these people a part of your team. And if you do that, then you’ll get success. If you don’t do that, then there will be a lot instances where there are conflicts in your priorities,” Bodhuin said.

In the final analysis, with the expertise gained via a managed services arrangement, Bodhuin expects Inspira to save time, reduce costs while minimizing the organization’s overall risk profile. As such, Bodhuin can help the health system support its strategic growth goals. “The technology/security must be ‘a department of yes’, not a ‘department of no’. When you start saying no to people, you're going against the business itself and that can be a real problem,” he concluded.